In this installment, I am not going to talk about food. I guess I could call it nutrition for your soul and mind. It's also a bit more than a "bite".
Today I want to share about my journey out of shame. When it came to wanting to change my behavior, especially around food, I thought I needed my self-talk to be harsh and strict. I thought that is how change was motivated. If you were to look at my approach in other areas, like spiritual matters, it was unfortunately the same. It was part of my upbringing. I had gone to a school that used the Scripture verse, “Be ye perfect for your Father in heaven is perfect.” It was used to shame and control behavior and it worked on me well. I was a people pleaser, earning my value and place in this world. I obeyed and figured this is how it was done. So my self-talk was pretty harsh too. I was a hard core perfectionist. If I made a mistake or ate the wrong food or failed at something, my talk was usually something to the effect of calling myself stupid, lazy, such a baby, too sensitive, fat, ugly, or disgusting. When I heard the Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I sincerely hoped if I worked very hard at loving and giving to others, I could get away with not loving myself.
When you transfer this mentality to dealing with a broken body, it somehow becomes my fault and I just need to try harder. I had been diagnosed with two chronic diseases that involved hormone imbalance, weight gain, severe acne, and infertility. With my physical appearance being so marred (or so I perceived), the shame of what I looked like was very, very heavy. I would try a new diet and work so hard, but when I would fail the shame would take over and I would just say, “Screw it. I give up. I might as well eat whatever I want.” This was my cycle over and over again.
Then there was the time I actually got a handle on my diet, was losing weight and had my blood work done, but it came back with high predictors of heart disease! I was doing everything right, but my blood markers said no. That is when I found the Primal diet and began to find healing for my body and then my blood work had completely turned around in 3 months. It was amazing.
Yet, I still carried a lot of shame and even with the success, I would begin the cycle, but thankfully not as drastic. It was around this time that I was introduced to Brené Brown’s books on vulnerability, shame and wholeheartedness. I saw the perfectionist tendencies for what it was. I finally heard the how horrible the self-talk in my head was. I began to be introduced to the idea of self-compassion rather than self-hatred as a means for change. I began to experiment. What if I met my failings with compassion and kindness? What if I began to believe that I am worthy of love and kindness? What if I accept my imperfections and who I am? What if I am enough just as I am? It was revolutionary.
This journey is what has led me to repeat the mantra to myself, and my clients, “Progress, not perfection.” I encourage you to meet yourself with compassion. You are doing the best that you can. When you know better, you do better. Progress, not perfection, will get you to the lifestyle that you long for. You are worthy of love and belonging, just as you are, right now. You are enough. Yes, there are choices that do not serve you well. There are food choices that will not lead you to your goals. There is a difference between guilt and shame. “Shame is about who we are, and guilt is about our behaviors. We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against the kind of person we want to be,” says Brené Brown in "Gifts of Imperfection". There is a place for guilt and accountability. It leads to positive change. But I encourage you to let go of the shame. Shame is what hold you captive to those behaviors you do not want to keep doing. So remember, progress, not perfection. Self-compassion will lead you to the change you desire…. healing for body and soul.